A Teacher’s Day In The Life (4): Dear Student Loans: I hate you.

Want to read the whole A Day In The Life series? Find it here

By far, the biggest battle David and I face with our finances are our student loans.  Collectively, we have over $75,000 in debt from pursuing an education.  We pay almost $1000 every month just in student loans.  It’s a drain on our life together.

Molly headshotWhen David was in college, his financial situation and the way he wanted to live life didn’t match. He over-borrowed and used a chunk of his student loans to accommodate his living expenses.  This was before I was in the picture, but we’re obviously paying off these debts together now, and I know he wishes he had handled things differently.  We both could have handled our college finances a whole lot better.

For me, I REALLY wish I had done two things:

#1 – I wish I had taken the ACT one more time to try to get above a 30 for those extra scholarships.

#2 – I wish I had gone to a state school from the start.

There’s no point in having regrets, but these are definitely things we will discuss with our daughter so she can learn from our mistakes.

I accumulated a lot of debt because I chose to go to Bradley, which is a private school in Illinois, and then because I changed majors and transferred schools, my degree took longer to acquire.  This is one of those things I wish my parents and I had had a bigger conversation about.  I know it was discussed briefly, but I was a pig-headed adolescent who thought her parents didn’t support her dreams.

In retrospect, if I had applied to Western Illinois as a high school senior, I think I would have almost earned a full ride.  My grades and test scores were good enough to earn me a sizable academic scholarship.  Plus the tuition is lower than Bradley’s.  I think about this all the time.  I hate sending so much of my money to Nelnet every month, when I know I could have made better choices about my college education.

Life without student loans seems like a dream – like some far off fairyland we can only get to if Peter Pan shows up and teaches us how to fly. We could afford so much more – vacations and pursuing hobbies we enjoy, and I could stay at home with our sweet girl. We certainly would have been in a house a lot sooner instead of spending five years living in apartment after apartment, shedding them like snakeskin as we grew.  Mostly, things would be more stable.  We wouldn’t have to worry so much because we’d have an adequate emergency fund instead of watching out for the next thing to trip us up.

It’s a tough lesson to learn, and one that will be around for a while. David and I will do our best to impart our knowledge to our children when it comes time.  Hopefully they will be more receptive to parental wisdom than I was.